For over 30 years, trade unions have relied on Steven Barrett to represent their interests, and the interests of their members, in all types of legal proceedings. Grievance and interest arbitration, labour relations board applications, collective bargaining – Steven does it all and makes it look easy. That’s why a member of parliament once referred to Steven as “the Wayne Gretzky of labour law”.
From protecting the scope of bargaining unit work, to challenging discipline or discharge, to making sure retiring employees get their full pension entitlements, there are few collective agreement disputes Steven has not argued. At the Ontario Labour Relations Board, he has represented unions in all kinds of proceedings from illegal strike applications, to related employer disputes, to complex unfair labour practice complaints. When the terms of a collective agreement must be determined, trade unions and professional associations call on Steven to conduct their collective bargaining negotiations, put forward their position at interest arbitration, or act as their nominee on an interest arbitration board. Steven also provides strategic advice to trade unions, professional associations and central labour bodies concerning legislative and policy initiatives, including in their dealings with government, universities, hospitals and municipalities.
Steven’s advocacy skills can also be seen in his class action practice. He has represented bank employees and others seeking a right to statutory overtime pay, retirees whose post-retirement benefits were improperly reduced, and hockey players seeking a right to the basic entitlements of employment standards legislation.
Steven is perhaps most widely known for his work advancing the freedom of association guarantee in s. 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He has represented intervenors in Supreme Court of Canada appeals dealing with the interpretation of s. 2(d), including in cases where the Court extended the scope of s. 2(d) to protect collective bargaining and the right to strike. He has published a number of articles on that jurisprudence, and discussed it at many legal conferences. Steven has also brought successful s. 2(d) applications before the lower courts.
Steven has been consistently named by his peers as a leading labour law practitioner in the Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory and is named as a notable practitioner in Chambers Canada.